It’s no secret that we love travelling with our own dog, Mister Dog (fondly known as plain old Dog to his mates). We take him on most of our camping trips, to cafes on lazy weekends at home, and even opt to stay at dog-friendly Airbnb’s when we’re looking for a little more luxury when we travel.
Some dog owners are hesitant to consider taking their dogs on their adventures. And we get it – it can really limit you in some instances! We couldn’t take our fur child with us when we did our Simpson Desert crossing, for example, as the desert is all National Park. But there are so many travellers out there touring this great country who are proving it is possible to hit the road with a dog in tow. We wanted to feature a few of the dog-owning travellers we follow on Instagram in a new “Cruising with Canines” feature. We hope these posts will inspire others, showing how with a little ingenuity it is possible to include your dog in your travel plans without feeling like you’re missing out on anything. You can view all our Cruising with Canines feature posts here.
Kurt and Amz from Sparkys on the loose are a great example of how it can be done. A couple of electricians from Brisbane, they’re travelling full-time around Australia with their dog Rusty. Their Instagram page is filled with photos from all the iconic locations, featuring some serious inspiration including hikes, dog-friendly camps, and brewery tours. We asked them how they’ve made travelling with a dog work out for them.
Tell us a bit about yourselves, and your gorgeous dog Rusty.
Hey legends, our names are Amz and Kurt. We are both electricians – hence the name ‘Sparkys on the loose’. We were torn between buying a house or road tripping Australia. Both of us were pretty sick of the 9-5 grind, so with that being said, we quit our jobs and hit the road! Rusty is 9 years old and is a kelpie cross cattle dog. She’s been with me (Amz) since I was 18, and I just couldn’t leave her behind on this epic adventure! We’ve been on the road now for 13months and loving it. Every day is a new adventure.
Travelling full-time like you do sounds like a dream come true for a lot of us! However, many people are put off by the idea of giving up the comforts or security of home. What inspired you to hit the road full-time, and what advice would you have for those considering the lifestyle?
Just to do it! You only live once! We were so close to buying a house – we even had a contract signed! But we got told by a lot of people older than us to just go travel and worry about buying a house later. We were so glad we listened and pulled out of the contract. I mean, it definitely wouldn’t have been bad as it’s a massive milestone in most peoples’ lives – owning their first home. For us, we have some time up our sleeve. We’re still young enough to make more money and do the house thing a bit later on.
If you’re considering doing a 3 month trip, 6 month trip or even a full lap… we highly recommend it! We have not met one single person who says they have regretted the decision. A lot of families rent their houses out while they travel, so you just need to find something that works for you.
With so many different options out there for camping set ups, what was it about the Navara and your Coromal van that drew you to them?
Well the Navara was Amz run-around car in Brisbane for many years. Leading up to the trip we were looking at buying a newer car, like a Ford Ranger, etc. But after having a good think we thought why not the Navara? It can tow 3 tonne, it’s diesel, and we owned the car outright. Initially we didn’t know what caravan we wanted, just that we wanted one. Because our trip was going to be towards the 18-24 month mark, we knew we wanted a ‘home on wheels’ which we could park up and not pack up day after day. We spotted our Coromal Pioneer at a private dealership on the north-side of Brisbane. And well, it ticked all the boxes and was in our price range – so the rest is history.
What have you added to your set up while on the road that you’d now consider an essential? How did you discover you needed this, and how did you make do without it?
Good question! We would have to say more spare parts for the car, that’s for sure. We now carry a lot more spares, as we have found doing a lot of off-roading on those dirt, corrugated tracks can be really harsh on the car. Kurt decided that by stocking up on part it eliminated down-time waiting for simple parts in remote places. For example, we had to wait 4 days for a new uni-joint and centre bearing while we were in Coober Pedy.
Travelling with a dog in Australia can be limiting, but you guys don’t appear to miss out on visiting National Parks or other places dogs can’t go, like brewery tours. How do you make it work?
It really comes down to two things for us – our setup & Rusty’s personality. Having the caravan has been a major advantage for us. Being able to leave Rusty inside it – all safe and secure while we pop out – has been great. Now, before people start criticising, they need to understand that Rusty actually loves her alone time. She is not a yappy dog or big barker, and due to her age we found she actually likes her daytime naps! We tend to camp outside and close by National Parks and day-trip it in while she’s having a nap. We have found we can generally see things in a 1-5 hour window.
Our car setup has also been great! She has a cage behind the passenger seat with a comfy bed and water bowls. We can leave her window down as we have installed security grill to the window. We always find a spot in the shade and can nip to the shops or do a small brewery tour while she has a little nap. She is never left in the car or caravan by herself if it’s a hot day, etc. We know what a comfortable temperature is and ensure our princess is well looked after.
Now, in saying all that, there are plenty of options for dog owners on the road. There are plenty of dog sitting services if needed. Other campers have even offered to look after Rusty for the day as they simply want some company or miss their own dog. Most vets offer pet minding, plus you can search for local kennels if you need a few days visiting a National Park, etc. It’s all about planning a little better and doing your research – it’s that simple! We have not missed out on anything yet because we travel with a dog. You’ll be surprised by the amount of places that accept dogs!
You’ve covered a lot of Australia already in your travels. Where is your favourite dog-friendly campsite?
Hmmm, tough question. There has been so many. We wouldn’t say we have found the ultimate ‘dog-friendly’ campsite yet. Each place offers different things. For example, camps near dog parks are always good, plus dog-friendly beaches, etc. If we had to pick one (so far) I reckon ‘Swimcart Beach, Bay of Fires’ in Tasmania. A great free camp with gorgeous beach-front views where dogs are allowed on-leash along the beach.
And what about your favourite dog-friendly tourist attraction or hike?
After recently returning from Tasmania, we would have to say the Port Arthur Historical Village was good. It was our first paid tour where Rusty was welcomed to roam the grounds with us (free of charge!). How good is that? We also found a few dog-friendly waterfall walks down in Tassie too, which was great.
Finally, what top three tips would you share with others considering travelling Australia with a dog?
One: Think about your setup and how will you manage those shop visits, dinners at the pub, etc. How and where will they travel in the car? Where will they sleep? If you have a good setup and system that works this will make your travels a lot easier with a dog.
Two: Plan ahead and do your research. We always plan a few days ahead on where to go and stay, etc. We browse WikiCamps a lot, but we also speak to Information Centres and local rangers a lot. Just remember anyone can edit WikiCamps. We have found quite a few campsites allow dogs but some people, for whatever reason, might change the symbol to ‘dogs not allowed’. So always double-check if you can!
Three: If your circumstances allow, definitely take your dog! They will add another dynamic to your trip, and I think we can both agree, this trip wouldn’t be the same without Rusty by our side.
If you’re not already doing so, make sure you check out these guys on social media. Their Instagram account is full of drool-worthy travel inspo pics. On their Facebook and blog you’ll find trip summaries and tips they’ve picked up from life on the road. And their YouTube is filled with a little bit of everything – trip videos, tips and tricks, and product reviews.